Portugal, a new El Dorado for Californians

by time news
Portugal, a new El Dorado for Californians

Portugal regularly appears at the top of the rankings on the countries where it is good to live, because of its climate, the affordable cost of food in particular, its good health system and the installation facilities granted to expatriates. the Los Angeles Times rightly points out that, “Among Westerners settling in Portugal, Americans are now the fastest growing in number”. The daily therefore went to meet Californian expatriates who have settled in Portugal. Most of them praise the local quality of life. “Portugal seemed to tick all the boxes – safe, with a diverse population, an LGBTQIA+ friendly climate with temperate weather, an excellent healthcare system and affordable housing,” summarizes Jen Wittman, a 47-year-old American living with her family in Lisbon.

Portugal has also done everything to attract these foreigners, in particular entrepreneurs, digital nomads and retirees to face the economic crisis. Michèle Abraham, a 30-year-old who founded her start-up and left Santa Monica for Porto, confirms this:

There’s a lot of support for entrepreneurship here. California has such an incredible ecosystem for start-ups that I wasn’t sure Portugal could compete. But it is. As a woman and a person of color, I really felt my gender and race were less of an issue as a startup founder in Portugal than in California. The community here is so inclusive and kind! It’s amazing for me to have the opportunity to live and work here.”

For Petter Barth, a 66-year-old retiree now living in Carvoeiro, the fact that the country consistently tops the rankings of the best places to retire has been instrumental. He now lives in a vineyard and benefits from a much more accessible healthcare system than in the United States.

In addition to the welcome reserved by Portugal in terms of visa or investment facilities, certain factors specific to the United States have pushed many people to emigrate. Shawnta Wiley, 49, owned an events business in San Diego. The fact that the US Congress did not extend aid to companies having to resort to unemployment in the summer of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, was decisive. For Nancy Whiteman, a 68-year-old retiree, it was the American political climate with the election of Donald Trump in 2016 that was a triggering factor.

But this enthusiasm has sometimes difficult consequences for the local population, in particular because expatriates have much higher incomes than the Portuguese and drive up property prices. “Portugal’s biggest cities are facing some of the same problems as California with rising rents and a housing crisis,” note it Los Angeles Times. Thérèse Mascardo, who left Santa Monica for Porto, rightly confides: “I save so much money living here, it’s criminal. I pay less than half my LA rent here and have more space.”

At the same time, this 39-year-old psychologist is well aware of the impact of foreigners like her on the local economy and in particular on housing prices: “It absolutely has to do with the influx of foreigners who bring big wallets and have more buying power than most locals.” Luis Mendès, a geographer at the University of Lisbon, observes that a lot has changed in the Portuguese capital in ten years:

“We talk about gentrification, real estate speculation and residential segregation. People have been evicted from their homes, even though they were living there sometimes for fifteen years, for half a century, or even more, and forced to settle on the outskirts of the city.

We have two main programs that attract foreign investment. We have the ‘golden visa’ and non-permanent residency. They are one of the causes of property speculation, with rental prices and home values ​​skyrocketing over the past decade.

It is very difficult for the average middle-class Portuguese to buy or rent a house in Lisbon.”

While some Portuguese, like Isabelle de Bandeira, have nothing against expatriates, others, like Raphaël Alves, a 30-year-old psychologist from Ericeira, deplore this massive influx of people who, according to him, would not seek to learn local culture, to participate in political life and to become socially involved.

Did you go to live in Portugal? What were your reasons? Are you satisfied with this choice? Tell us by writing to us at [email protected] and we will publish your testimony.

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